I'm a proponent of getting off main trails when opportunities arise for great scenery or just a less crowded alternative. In my view, "purity" means that I have connected my footprints from one end of my hike to the other, not necessarily whether I've stuck to the main trail 100% of the time (of course HYOH ... )

In this spirit, I thought that I would make a recommendation to check out Sky Meadows State Park, just south of Ashby Gap in Northern Virginia. On prior trips on the AT in this area, I have just gone right through this park, but on a day hike yesterday, I decided to do explore this park along with the AT section I was doing. The last time I explored Sky Meadows was at least 15 years ago.

The quick option is an out and back on the Ambassador Whitehouse Trail, which is clearly marked at its junction with the A.T. Less than a half mile from the junction, you come to the Piedmont Overlook which has sweeping views toward the east. On a clear winter day, like yesterday, I could see the high-rises of northern Virginia in the far distance.

A better option is to take the North Ridge Trail from the AT, then the Ambassador Whitehouse Trail to the overlook, and then continue on this trail back to the A.T. However, you'll miss a short section of the A.T. if you do this.

There is also a small campground at sky meadows a short distance (but downhill) from the AT.

Anyway, here is a map of the area for those interested.